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Is the IP boutique going the way of the telegraph and Model T? The answer, at least at New York’s Fish & Neave, is … not exactly. Fish & Neave placed first in our “Who ProtectsIP America”survey of firms that counsel clients and prosecute patents. It ranked second in the litigation part of the survey. With 200 lawyers, patent agents, and technical advisers based in New York City and Palo Alto, Fish & Neave represented Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and the Wright Brothers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It begins the new century with brand-name clients in telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, and biotechnology — Polaroid, Compaq Computer, Motorola, Textron, Revlon, Nintendo, AT&T, Time Warner and Lucent Technologies are just a few. Last year, the firm, which generated over $85.5 million in gross revenue, was ranked 153 in The Am Law 200 survey. CLIENT SERVICE Fish & Neave wants to be known as a trial firm. The counseling and prosecution is a customer service. “Seventy-five or 80 percent of our practice is litigation,” says Jesse Jenner, the firm’s managing partner. So why is this litigation-intensive firm at the top of our list for patent prosecution and IP counseling? Partly because they set out to develop that expertise. “In the past 25 years we’ve staffed up to do patent prosecution and trademark registration for clients who want to have all of their out-of-house patent work handled by a single firm,” says Jenner. Of Fish & Neave’s 175 lawyers, 90 are registered to practice before the Patent and Trademark Office. And Fish & Neave clients say they approve of the synergy between the firm’s litigation and patent-prosecution wings. “The experience one gains in litigation patent matters can hardly help but be useful in structuring a prosecution,” says Time Warner Senior Counsel Bernard Sorkin. As large, general practice firms enter the market, Jenner believes that the firm’s long-standing history is a valuable asset. “We are probably a better known and larger practice,” he says, adding that rather than seeking strategic mergers as other IP firms have done, “we’re actually trying to grow the law firm to keep up with the work.” NO URGE TO MERGE Other firms have approached Fish & Neave about merging, but the partners don’t have the urge. “It’s not clear to the partners what the firm has to gain from such a move,” Jenner says. (According to The Am Law 200, profits per partner in 1999 averaged $700,000). And in an age in which many IP partners hop from firm to firm, Fish & Neave has never even taken on a lateral partner, “but that doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t,” Jenner says. Like all IP law firms with a high-tech practice, Fish & Neave faces special problems in the Internet era. Perhaps the greatest of these is the risk that promising lawyers will be hired away by new-technology companies. “I think the biggest problem we have faced — I’m going to call it the dot-com problem,” Jenner says. “Our young lawyers are particularly a ripe target,” he says. “It’s unfortunate, [but] it’s the way of the world.” Traditionally a New York City�based law firm, Fish & Neave has spent the last decade learning how to function bicoastally — opening up its Palo Alto office in 1992, after “several false starts,” Jenner says. In Jenner’s view, the new office has made the difference in keeping Fish & Neave competitve with West Coast firms vying for increasingly lucrative Silicon Valley patent work. Thanks to the expansion, Jenner says, “We’re very nearby and able to arrive at a moment’s notice.” Under senior partner Ed Mollowney’s leadership, the office has grown to a six-partner, 21-associate outpost. Mullowney, who has handled a heavy load as lead counsel in litigations for Amersham Pharmacia Biotech, Becton Dickson, Polaroid, and Filenet — among others — says that the Palo Alto cases “tend to be based on biotech, computers, and semiconductors.” These days, the Palo Alto office is handling a number of high-profile cases, including patent-infringement litigation brought by InCyte Genomics against GeneLogic, and large-scale patent infringement cases brought by Plasma Physics and Solar Physics against all Japanese and Korean manufacturers of semiconductors and flat-panel displays. LIBERAL ARTS LAWYERS Fish & Neave also is different from many patent-focused law firms, Jenner says, because “we have always had a policy of looking more for the lawyer and less for the technical degree.” Some of the firm’s best patent litigators are individuals who came to law school with liberal-arts or other non-technical degrees. Still, he adds, “the majority of us probably do” fit the profile of the technically trained patent lawyer. Many lawyers say they regard Fish & Neave’s client base as the most stellar in the IP world. Even if other firms cave in to merging or being acquired, they say, Fish & Neave is extremely well positioned to continue going its own way as it has for the last 122 years.
Compaq Computer
Emerson Electric
Ford Motor
Emerson Electric
Lucent Technologies
Pharmacia & Upjohn
Time Warner

Related Chart: Who ProtectsIP America Return to Special Report: Who Protects IP America

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